A Stewartstown farmer who defrauded the VAT man out of £395,000 over six years, has been given a one year jail sentence suspended for two years at Dungannon Crown Court.
Alan James McReynolds from Tamlaghtmore Road in the town admitted fraudulently evading tax by submitting false VAT repayment claims on dates between July 19, 2005 and June 2, 2011.
In sentencing the 33-year-old defendant to a year in jail suspended for two years, Judge Paul Ramsey said although Mc Reynolds had defrauded the Inland Revenue out of £395,000, this did not take into account the amount of VAT he was genuinely entitled to over the five- year period.
So it was very difficult to give an exact amount of what the Revenue was actually owed, the court heard.
Judge Ramsey said the defendant, who had no previous relevant convictions, had got into severe financial difficulties at the start of the recession after inheriting the family farm from his father.
McReynolds was arrested by Revenue officials in 2012 and pleaded guilty to the offences last February.
The judge said this case had been hanging over the defendant’s head for a considerable period of time and that he had gone bankrupt in 2013, losing everything, including his good name.
The judge said this was a very distressing time for the defendant and his family.
Judge Ramsey added that probation and psychiatric reports made for some disturbing reading and that there was a reference to ending his life in a medical report.
The court heard that McReynolds was suffering from severe anxiety and depression and that there were serious concerns about his health and future if he was jailed.
Judge Ramsey said that although the custody threshold had been crossed, the defendant had been motivated by a need to keep the farm going rather than greed.
The judge added that the medical evidence and probation report before him, the defendant’s emotionalism, depression and regret for what happened would lead to a suspended jail sentence.
Judge Ramsey said the jail term would be activated if McReynolds was convicted for any jailable offence in the interim.
The case was heard on Tuesday, December 1.